Halleck's New English Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 629 pages of information about Halleck's New English Literature.

  “A teme of Dolphins raunged in aray
    Drew the smooth charett of sad Cymoent: 
  They were all taught by Triton to obay
    To the long raynes at her commaundement: 
  As swifte as swallowes on the waves they went.
       * * * * *
  “Upon great Neptune’s necke they softly swim,
  And to her watry chamber swiftly carry him. 
  Deepe in the bottome of the sea her bowre
  Is built of hollow billowes heaped hye."[8]

The following lines will show Spenser’s love for beauty, and at the same time indicate the nobility of some of his ideal characters.  He is describing Lady Una, the fair representative of true religion, who has lost through enchantment her Guardian Knight, and who is wandering disconsolate in the forest:—­

  “...Her angel’s face,
    As the great eye of heaven, shyned bright,
  And made a sunshine in the shady place;
  Did never mortall eye behold such heavenly grace.

  “It fortuned out of the thickest wood
    A ramping Lyon rushed suddeinly,
  Hunting full greedy after salvage blood. 
    Soone as the royall virgin he did spy,
    With gaping mouth at her ran greedily,
  To have att once devoured her tender corse;
    But to the pray when as he drew more ny,
  His bloody rage aswaged with remorse,
  And with the sight amazd, forgat his furious forse.

  “In stead thereof he kist her wearie feet,
    And lickt her lilly hands with fawning tong,
  As he her wronged innocence did weet. 
    O, how can beautie maister the most strong,
    And simple truth subdue avenging wrong!"[9]

The power of beauty has seldom been more vividly described.  As we read the succeeding stanzas and see the lion following her, like a faithful dog, to shield her from harm, we feel the power of both beauty and goodness and realize that with Spenser these terms are interchangeable, Each one of the preceding selections shows his preference for the subjective and the ideal to the actual.

Spenser searched for old and obsolete words.  He used “eyne” for “eyes,” “fone” for “foes,” “shend” for “shame.”  He did not hesitate to coin words when he needed them, like “mercify” and “fortunize.”  He even wrote “wawes” in place of “waves” because he wished it to rime with “jaws.”  In spite of these peculiarities, Spenser is not hard reading after the first appearance of strangeness has worn away.

A critic rightly says that Spenser repels none but the anti-poetical.  His influence upon other poets has been far-reaching.  Milton, Dryden, Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley show traces of his influence.  Spenser has been called the poet’s poet, because the more poetical one is, the more one will enjoy him.


The Early Religious Drama.—­It is necessary to remember at the outset that the purpose of the religious drama was not to amuse, but to give a vivid presentation of scriptural truth.  On the other hand, the primary aim of the later dramatist has usually been to entertain, or, in Shakespeare’s exact words, “to please.”  Shakespeare was, however, fortunate in having an audience that was pleased to be instructed, as well as entertained.

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Halleck's New English Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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